January 21, 2003 · 4:00 PM PST ·
AS READER Paschal Stewart alerts me, they're actually offering Mad Art over at the Quality Paperback Club. In fact, they say it came out last November and if you're paying the fee to get a membership
there, you can buy it for two dollars! How is it they have copies? And how can they sell it so cheap? Simple. If you click on
the snapshot of their site at left and look carefully, you'll see that they're selling an edition that has ZERO PAGES! That's right: No
pages! It's easy to get a book in stock if you don't wait until the insides are printed.
And you can sell those copies real cheap — though I'd think an Evanier book without pages should go for more, not less.
HOW FAST ARE YOU GOING? I mean, right now — connected to the Internet. You can test your connection speed here.
January 21, 2003 · 10:30 AM PST ·
ANOTHER ASPECT to the discussion of copyrights is the question of the moral rights of those who create the work. This article over at Slate discusses the lawsuit by directors to stop a handful of
companies from producing "cleansed" versions of movies. I think the directors are going to lose this one. There's too much precedence for
no one saying boo when films have been cut or altered for TV or to be shown on airlines, and too many other folks who participate in the creation of
a movie to say that any one version reflects the creators' vision.
UPDATE: My new book,
Mad Art, seems to be in every physical bookstore but largely unavailable online. Amazon (where it's climbed to #43,363 in the rankings)
still says it's due to be released "December 12, 2002." All the other cybershops either say it's not released or it's out of stock. I am
not particularly annoyed about this. There's something curiously amusing to me about it. But do let me know if you come across anywhere
— except the publisher's website —
where you can actually buy the thing via the Internet.
January 21, 2003 · 12:30 AM PST ·
NOT THAT it's a particularly meaningful statistic but someone asked me who lived longer — Carl Barks or Al Hirschfeld
— and I just did the math. Barks was born 3/27/01 and died 8/25/2000, for a total of 36,311 days. Hirschfeld was born 6/21/03 and
died yesterday morning, so he lived for 36,373 days. So the life of Al Hirschfeld was about two months longer, and I have no idea why I
bothered to figure that out, except for this: It's a little difficult for those of us who are around the halfway mark to comprehend what it's like to
live for almost a century. The more data we have, the better our chances of putting it in perspective.
Years ago at local cartoon fests and seminars, a frequent guest was Grim Natwick, who created Betty Boop and was later the key animator
of Mr. Disney's Snow White. Natwick was born in 1890, and to grasp the concept of that, we had to remind ourselves of other historical markers
— like, that was the year the zipper was invented and several years before there were typewriters. (Al Hirschfeld was born the same year
the Wright Brothers made their historic flight at Kitty Hawk.)
Different, odd things enabled some of us to grasp just how long Grim had been on the planet. Around 1985, I remember him speaking
at an event and talking about how, when he was animating, a certain "young punk kid" would come by and tell him, "Mr. Natwick, when I grow up, I want
to draw cartoons like you." The kid was Walter Lantz, who was very much his junior, having been born ten years later. Everyone laughed
that a 95 year old man was referring to an 85 year old as a "young punk kid," but it especially floored us to realize it was true: We all thought of
Mr. Lantz as a Grand Old Man of animation...and Grim had gotten into the business a decade before him. Amazing. (Grim lived to the age of
100; Lantz, to 94. Drawing silly pictures for a living seems to be good for the heart.)
The most amazing thing about Al Hirschfeld was not that he lived to be 99 but that he still drew and, from what I've seen, he still
drew pretty well. When I met him, he was a relatively spry 89 but he sure didn't act 89. He had just returned from a camping trip, and
was back in his home — a beautiful old brownstone townhouse with his studio on the top floor and no elevator. Giving me the tour, he
bounded up and down the stairs and it was all I could do to keep up with him. (Barks was the same way until about age 90.) Hirschfeld's
mind was sharp and inquiring, as well. My visit was not long after the L.A. riots of that year and, since I was from Los Angeles, he peppered
me with questions about what it was like in the city, how it felt to be in the midst of all that, etc. (I mostly asked him about people like
George S. Kaufman and Alexander Woollcott.) If I hadn't known better, I'd have taken him for 65 or 70.
Satchel Paige used to ask, "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" Hirschfeld certainly did not conform to our
notion of someone his age, nor did the other gents mentioned above. We loved him for his work, of course. But I think some of us also
loved him because he reminded us that it's possible to get old without getting old.
THE THREE articles above all deal with Governor Ryan's last-minute commutations of 167 Death Row inmates in Illinois. The
last of these is a Salon Premium Exclusive, meaning you have to be a subscriber to read it. You should be but, in case you're not, I'll
summarize: A lot of the families of murder victims look to the execution of the murderer for some sort of release and healing, and often find that it
either doesn't satisfy or that it makes things worse. Furthermore, the kind of appeals/review process that is necessary for the Death Penalty
can put these people on an emotional roller coaster. And if the evident flaws in that process are fixed, it may be worse for those family
members. End of summary.
No, I still don't know how I feel about the state putting people to death, but I do think it's interesting that the debate is
evolving. When we discussed it back in college, the "pro" argument was almost wholly that it was a deterrent. Later, it moved away from
that and towards the position that the family and friends of the deceased deserved the satisfaction of seeing the killer executed. Now, a lot
of those families are led to believe that a certain party is guilty, and they work up an understandable anger at that individual, only to see him
later exonerated by DNA evidence. Unlike some of my friends, I don't believe the Death Penalty is indefensible but I acknowledge that the
defense seems to keep shifting.
AND, AS USUAL, we recommend Paul Krugman's new
January 20, 2003 · 10:50 AM PST ·
AL HIRSCHFELD was that rarity in the communities of both Art and Theater: Admired by all, disliked by no one. As I found
when I spent a day "posing" for him a few years back, he was a delightful, avuncular gent...but, even before that, I loved him through his
work. He was not a cartoonist; at least, he didn't think of himself as one. He was a theatrical reporter and, in a way, the most
important critic of them all. When he attended a Broadway opening (and going to most was a serious "perk" of his position), he was no less
dedicated to capturing what he saw on stage than were any of the newspaper people present. Drawing in the dark as that task required, he
nurtured and cultivated the most amazing, functional line in the time-honored craft of Caricature.
Its very simplicity maddened those who tried to imitate him. He always knew precisely how to lay it down, and how to contour and
bold it just so, the better to denote not only the look of his subject but some perceptive, vital quirk of personality or posture. That he
could see this in people — even strangers, up there on stage or screen — was a function of the man, himself. Others could and did
draw like him, but they could only draw what they saw, and Hirschfeld saw more than any of them.
Last September, it was announced that the Martin Beck Theater in New York would be renamed for Mr. Hirschfeld on his 100th
birthday. The rechristening seemed logical since no one remembers Martin Beck and everyone in the Broadway community knows and loves Al.
But as many of us commented at the time, it seemed odd to make a 99-year-old man wait for such an honor. A
99-year-old man shouldn't have to wait for anything, but I suppose they (whoever "they" are) figured that there was no rush; that Al Hirschfeld would
always be around.
And in at least one sense, of course, they were right.
January 20, 2003 · 12:30 AM PST ·
WENT OUT to the Hollywood Collectors Show today. This is a quarterly (or so) event where dozens of movie and TV stars sell
autographed photos of themselves. The whole list can be found at this site,
where you can also find details on the next one, which is April 15-16. But among those who were scribbling their names on glossies for fans
were Soupy Sales, Jennifer O'Neill, Lou Ferrigno, Carroll Baker, Jay North, Frank Stallone, Tanya Roberts and many more. Among those I spoke
with were Buddy Hackett, Jerry Vale and Mousie Garner. Mousie, at age 93, is a vaudeville legend who was kind of the "Pete Best" of the Three
Also had a nice chat with comedian Rip Taylor, who has recently
undergone successful eye surgery. Rip is reaching "show biz legend" status
and as they used to say in a commercial no one remembers, he did it the
old-fashioned way: He earned it. I can't think of anyone in the field
who's worked harder at a career, always going out on tour with something and/or
taking small roles and turning them into big ones. He also works hard once
he gets the job. I saw him in Vegas not long ago and he took the stage
with an attitude that seemed to say, "This audience paid to see me so I'm
not leaving until everyone in this room is sick from laughter."
An awful lot of comedians — an ever-growing number, it seems —
don't have that devotion. They seem to adopt a posture of: "My act is
funny. People have laughed at it in this past. I'm going to do that
act and if this audience doesn't laugh, something's wrong with them."
Rip isn't like that. He worked his ass (and toupee) off for the crowd — which I think goes halfway to explain why he's been
around so long. The other half is that he's pretty funny, at least when they let him do a whole act. The last few years, his TV
appearances have rarely allowed for this, which is a shame. If you get the chance to see him live, do it. A list of upcoming appearances
is posted from time to time at www.riptaylor.com, along with other Rip-roaring stuff.
Now, I have a story to tell you. In 1976, Sid and Marty Krofft produced a short-lived but highly memorable segment for The
Krofft Supershow on ABC. It was called ElectraWoman and DynaGirl, and it can best be described as a knock-off of the Batman
TV show, but with two very attractive ladies in the title roles. Deidre Hall, who is now a superstar in the world of soap operas, played the
older, more experienced ElectraWoman. Judy Strangis, who was then best known from the TV series Room 222 and about eight million
commercials, played the teen DynaGirl. An awful lot of young males — and even some fathers — got up on Saturday morn just to see
them prancing about in Spandex. (Given what's now on the cable channels, and even the major networks, it's insane how we used to tune in a
given show just because it had thirty seconds of some cute lady wearing something skintight.) I went to work for the Kroffts not long after
that show had ceased production.
One day, I was wandering through their warehouse-factory when I spotted some glittery, satiny wardrobe peeking out of a trash can
— outfits that had been worn by dancers on the Kroffts' variety shows. As I was then living with one of those dancers, I asked and
received permission to take some of these unwanted costumes home for her. Somehow, I was also given the ElectraWoman and DynaGirl suits and no,
they didn't fit me. They wound up in my closet.
In 1981, I met Judy Strangis when she did the voice of the lead character on Goldie Gold, a cartoon show I worked on. I
told her I had the DynaGirl costume and that if she wanted it, I'd be glad to give it to her. (Before you ask: I've never met Deidre Hall but
I'm told she wants to forget the show and won't even sign photos from it. So the ElectraWoman costume is staying in my closet until I can give
it to a TV museum or some other appropriate venue.)
For years, I ran into Judy in restaurants and at parties and we talked about having lunch or otherwise getting together so I could give
her the costume. Somehow, this never transpired. Finally, today — around 22 years since I promised it to her — I took it up
to the Hollywood Collectors Show and handed it over. She was, of course, floored. It's faded and the Velcro is coming off, but it's still
more or less in one piece. Judy said she couldn't wait to take it home and see if it still fits. I'm betting it does. She looks
like she's aged about five years since '76. (By the way, she had a pretty good crop of guys my age lined up to buy signed photos today.
Gonads never forget.)
Another great sex symbol, Don Knotts, had the longest line — out the door and through the parking lot. So many were
waiting that I felt guilty cutting in to say howdy, but I did. The charming thing about Don is that he is just about
universally loved and respected. I've been at gatherings of stars where he was among some pretty big names...but no matter how big, everyone
wanted to meet Don and tell him how much they worshipped him. And, like Jimmy Stewart (who I wrote about
here), he is genuinely unspoiled by this, no matter how often it happens. Yesterday and today at the Hollywood Collectors
Show, it happened over and over and over, maybe 30-50 times an hour, and he was still polite and friendly and appreciative. Every time.
I don't know who the nicest person in show business is. But Don Knotts is certainly in the top two.
ARE YOU INTERESTED in women who have their hair feathered back? How about in people in movies who eat Chinese food and ice
cream straight from the carton? If you answered "yes" to either of these questions, you'll want to visit The Feathered Back Hair and Eating Chinese Food and Ice Cream Straight From the Carton in Movies and TV
Site. (If you answered "yes" to both, you've found your new home page.)
January 19, 2003 · 1:30 AM PST ·
A SCIENTIST says that bananas may become extinct within ten years because they don't have sex. What do you want to bet
that (a) this doesn't happen but (b) within the next few days, Jay Leno will use this news item in a joke about his bandleader?
Anyway, if you want to know about this threat to our funniest fruit, here's the link.
THE OTHER NIGHT on Letterman, guest George Clooney got to talking about The Money Maze, a
1974-1975 ABC game show that was hosted by his father, Nick Clooney. George worked on the staff of that show, and its announcer was Letterman's
current announcer, Alan Kalter. (Nick Clooney is probably best known these days as a host on American Movie Classics.)
The Money Maze was kind of a dumb program, with couples competing for the right to challenge a huge maze that filled most of the
studio. The husband would race through twists and turns in the labyrinth while his wife watched from an elevated platform called the Crow's
Nest, which gave her a view of the whole layout. She would yell out instructions — "Turn left! Turn right!" — while he tried
to locate five "money towers." These were pillars hidden in the maze which lit up when the husband pressed a button on them. One had a
"1" on it; the rest had zeroes. If the hubby got all five towers lit and got out of the maze within 60 seconds, the couple won $10,000, which
presumably made it all worth the effort. If he only lit the "1" tower and three zeroes, they got $1000. If he got the "1" and two zeroes,
it meant $100, and I seem to recall at least one couple winning a big ten bucks. In order to win anything, the runner had to light the "1"
tower and get out of the maze in the allotted time. During one phase of the show, the towers also had prize names on them; one represented a
mink stole, another was a trip to Hawaii, etc.
Those of you interested in Trivial Connections might like to know that the producer of this series was the late Don Segall, whose
career in TV and comic books I wrote about here. The director was Artie Forrest, who was mentioned here, and who has recently been directing some episodes of Whose Line Is It, Anyway? And the show
was under the aegis of Daphne Productions, which was Dick Cavett's production company. Most likely, it got on the air because Cavett had
received some sort of commitment from ABC as part of the contract for his late night talk show.
The show had a short run, in part because ABC was then having clearance problems with its late afternoon programming (it only ran in
about half the country) but to a great extent because the set was so involved. Segall told me that it took a huge crew at least 24, sometimes
48 hours to set up the maze, which was rearranged for every tape day. At the time, there were only a few studios in New York that could
accommodate it and they were in such demand that they charged a fortune in rental. Every time the producers of Money Maze went in to
tape a new block of shows, they had to pay for several days of studio rental to set up, and then it cost an absurd amount in overtime to strike the
set and store it away. Don described it as the first game show where the stage crew took home more money than the contestants.
It was a pretty clear ancestor of the so-called "reality shows" of today but don't expect to see it on the Game Show Network.
Word is that all but one or two of the tapes of Money Maze were erased, due either to neglect or Nick Clooney paying someone off.
IAN McNAUGHTON, the director of Monty Python's Flying Circus, died shortly after Christmas. Here's a link to a remembrance written by Pythoner Terry Jones.
MY FRIEND, chanteuse extraordinaire Shelly Goldstein, reportedly wowed them in London with her act. While there, she
appeared on the popular BBC radio program, Breakfast with Danny Baker, and discussed her singing, as well as her extensive career as a TV
writer-producer. If you go to this
page, you can listen to about eleven minutes of that interview.
WHAT HAVE Adam West and Burt Ward been doing lately? Funny you should ask...
January 18, 2003 · 11:00 AM PST ·
LAWRENCE LESSIG was among the leaders of the move to disallow the copyright extension act. In fact, he was the main arguer
of that viewpoint before the Supreme Court. As I've mentioned, I disagree with the notion that public domain is usually in the public good, so
I'm more or less on the opposite side to Prof. Lessig. But in today's New York Times, he proposes a compromise move which sounds
eminently sensible to me. Here's a link to it.
January 18, 2003 · 10:00 AM PST ·
A RATHER horrifying percentage of Americans — the kind who get interviewed on the street by Jay Leno, one supposes —
believe that some or all of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis. This says something about their I.Q.s, but it also says much about how well the
Bush Administration has diverted attention from Osama to Saddam. And, of course, it says oodles about how timid our press corps is about
keeping America informed. (For the stats and a good take on this, see this entry over at Avedon Carol's excellent political weblog, The Sideshow. Avedon's links and musings are always worth a daily visit.)
January 18, 2003 · 1:30 AM PST ·
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE WHOLE PICTURE
HERE'S A charming (and somewhat whimsical) picture of The Three Stooges making a visit to kids in a hospital — the kind of
thing they did very often. Larry Fine, Moe Howard and "Curly" Joe DeRita were very nice gents who were generous with their time and only too
willing to turn out for any charitable or benevolent concern. But what I find funny about this photo is that "Curly" Joe didn't pause to think,
"Hmm...we're in a hospital ward full of sick children. Maybe I should ditch the cigar."
HERE'S an article by Joshua Green
called "Reagan's Liberal Legacy." It basically lists all the things — like raising taxes and backing down on his position against the
Soviet Union — that Reagan's conservative admirers are determined to pretend he didn't do.
interview with my friend Nat Gertler about his current comic book projects. They include a sequel to his book, Panel One, which
reprints comic book scripts. The second one includes, among other fun stuff, the plot breakdown I did for an issue of
Groo the Wanderer.
AND HERE'S another article about
the battle over the rights to Winnie the Pooh. One does get the feeling that Disney's happiness at the Supreme Court decision regarding
copyright extension will be balanced by the outcome of this case.
January 17, 2003 · 6:30 PM PST ·
AMAZING JOHNATHAN is a very hip, cutting-edge magician in Vegas. Recently, his fellow practitioners of magic gathered for
a roast and — well, here. I'll let you read what occurred...
A sacrilegious stunt by Penn & Teller that offended some at a major magicians convention was defended Thursday by fellow local
headliners. A group walked out of a roast of Amazing Johnathan on Monday after Teller, dressed as Christ on a full-sized cross, entered the
room on a cart. A midget dressed as an angel performed a simulated sex act on the near-naked Teller. Penn Jillette, in a Roman gladiator
costume, unveiled the scene by pulling away a "Shroud of Turin" that covered the cross.
Here's a link to the
entire news story. It reminds me of tales of how, back when Redd Foxx and Buddy Hackett played Vegas, there would be signs outside the showroom
warning that foul language was used and that the show was not for the easily-offended...but somehow, every night, some elderly couple from Dubuque
stalked out, shivering at having heard the "f" word. You have to wonder: What did they expect?
January 17, 2003 · 10:00 AM PST ·
TWO FRIDAY MORNING LINKS: Rephah Berg suggests that "new professional writers" (discussed below) should visit
The Burry Man Writers Center, where they will learn much about the field and its
scamming. Click on "The Business of Writing" and read everything there.
And I suggest that folks interested in the Death Penalty reversal in Illinois read this article in this morning's New York Times. I really think that most of
those who are upset about the actions of the outgoing governor are saying, in effect, "No! Don't tell us the system is broken. We don't
want to hear that. We want to believe it works the way we like." But the genie's out of the bottle on this one. If there's going to
be a Death Penalty in this country in five years, the process will take a lot of fixing.
January 17, 2003 · 1:00 AM PST ·
THE COMIC BOOK news sites have released this announcement so I might as well mention it here: Dark Horse Comics is publishing a 4-issue mini-series of Shrek. Ramon Bachs and Raul Fernandez are handling
the artwork and Yours Truly is writing the thing — a task I happily accepted when it was offered, since I really liked the movie. The
first issue, which comes out the end of April, is adapted from a short Shrek movie that has been produced for exhibition at theme parks.
It takes place on the honeymoon of Shrek and Fiona, as they encounter the ghost of Lord Farquaad. The other three issues will be original,
individual stories featuring characters from the film, and that's really all I have to report at the moment. Hope you like it.
Frankly, I'm just as excited about another book Dark Horse is bringing out even though I have nothing to do with it. In May,
they'll release a full-color volume of Li'l Abner Sunday pages drawn primarily by Frank Frazetta. Denis Kitchen, who published those
wonderful Abner reprint books, is annotating them. I could probably sponge a free copy off the company but, in the hope this sells well
enough to warrant more books — including the non-Frazetta Sunday pages — I'm going to pay actual money. You should, too.
THIS NEXT ITEM is about folks who might best be described as "new professional writers," meaning that they've
sold a few things but not many, and are eager to sell more. Lately, several have written me for advice and/or sympathy as they have experienced
the same baffling, dispiriting situation. It starts via an e-mail contact with someone — we'll call that person "The Buyer" — who
is looking for writers for some project. Sometimes, The Buyer solicited applicants on the Internet; sometimes, The Writer was referred to
them. Either way, The Buyer sends an e-mail with a long breakdown of rules and guidelines, and encourages The Writer to submit pitches —
samples, premises, "spec" outlines, whatever.
The Writer invests some time in cobbling up ideas, sends them off...and the next thing, he or she gets back an e-mail that asks for a
price quote. In other words, "How cheap will you work?" The Writer, who knows little of how the project is to be marketed, where it will
be distributed, etc., doesn't have enough info to cite a price but if they don't, they don't have a shot at this job. So they do, erring on the
low side. And the next thing they receive is an e-mail that says, basically, "You're too expensive. We're going with someone else."
For some reason, this kiss-off is usually accompanied by some sort of gratuitous insult. One writer-applicant recently received
one that said, "Obviously, based on the price you quoted, you're not a professional." Based on the low price quote that The Buyer found
exorbitant, I would say the project is not very professional, either.
I've heard of this happening often lately, and I have no real advice to offer the rebuffed scribes who write to me except this: Don't
spend a lot of time auditioning, especially for jobs that pay rotten (or unknown) fees. No one builds a career doing these kinds of
assignments. There's no money in them, and they rarely lead to the kind of jobs that do pay. Even a beginner is entitled to basic
courtesy, including the right to know the pay scales for a job before they do any try-out work. If it's going to pay less than a hundred
dollars — and some of these jobs seem to pay a lot less — you're probably better off putting the same effort into writing something you
can go out and sell. You might also want to read the three columns I posted here about "Unfinanced Entrepreneurs." Here's the link to the first one and I'll repeat something I say in one of them...
Steer clear of those who want to exploit you. Even when you think you have no better prospect, avoid the Unfinanced
Entrepreneur. They not only steal your work; they embezzle a little bit of your soul.
The Internet does a great job of connecting us with one another. It also increases the number of leeches who can contact you, and
makes it harder to know who — or what — they really are. That "22-year-old blonde cheerleader named Tiffany in Malibu" you
encounter in a chat room will probably turn out to be a 62-year-old fat pervert named Sid in West Covina. The supposed publisher or producer
who contacts you via e-mail and promises to make you a star may be equally legitimate.
THE LATEST ON Mad
Art: The online booksellers still say it ain't out, but the publisher is doing a second printing. I have a feeling the second printing
will be out before Amazon figures out there was a first one.
January 16, 2003 · 12:00 PM PST ·
BREAKING NEWS: The listing at Amazon.Com now says that my book, Mad Art, will be released December 12, 2002. We're
THIS IS SO FUNNY, I have to post it here. This is an excerpt from a current Associated Press story...
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lt. Gov. Jennette Bradley, the first black woman in the nation to hold the job, said Monday a state senator's
insensitive remarks and behavior provide a valuable learning opportunity. At a Cleveland fund-raiser before the Nov. 5 election, Senate
President Doug White said he used the expression "we need to jew them down." White said he didn't realize the remark was anti-Semitic and
apologized to Jewish leaders after he learned that some in the audience found it offensive. "The comment was a very offhand one that I had no
knowledge of its sensitivity. It's one I've used very seldom in my life," said White, a Republican from Manchester.
White also used to rub the head or shoulder of a black state senator for luck, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported. The
senator was offended but never complained, she told the paper. "The problem with that place is you have to pick your battles," said Rhine
McLin, now mayor of Dayton, referring to the Ohio Statehouse. "You gotta work with these people."
McLin described White as "somebody who just doesn't know any better." White disputed McLin's comments and said he had never
heard of a stereotype about rubbing black people for luck.
Here's a link to the entire story, but that's the
meat of it. What is it with these people? It's been more than a quarter of a century since the Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, lost
his position due to anger over a seemingly-racist joke. Shouldn't anyone who runs for public office have long since learned a tiny bit of
sensitivity to ethnic references, if only as a matter of self-preservation?
I'm always reticent to peg someone as a racist based on casual remarks or quips — but at the very least, they don't demonstrate a
lot of practical intelligence. Never attribute to deviousness that which can be explained by incompetence.
January 15, 2003 · 12:30 PM PST ·
WELL, IT'S ABOUT FRIGGIN' TIME they started releasing The Dick Van Dyke Show on DVD. The first five volumes from
Time-Life Video are supposed to be out any day now. Each features four complete episodes with what I'm told is superior video quality. If
you have to pick one volume, go for Volume 2, which contains "Where Did I Come From?", "That's My Boy," "It May Look Like A Walnut," and "October
Eve." Those are the ones wherein Ritchie is born, Ritchie comes home from the hospital, the closet is full of walnuts, and an embarrassing
painting of Laura turns up in a Manhattan art gallery. They're about as good as sitcoms get.
My friend, sitcom expert Vince Waldron, wrote the liner notes and he tells me that the makers of the DVD DVDs managed to locate
original network prints, which are each about four minutes longer than the cut-down versions we all know so well from syndication. That alone
is reason enough for me to buy them. Vince, by the way, has a superb website called Classic
Sitcoms, which has info and episode guides for a lot of my favorite shows. He is also the author of a book by the same name, as well as
The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book, and I recommend both highly. (I'm not supplying Amazon links to them. Go over to Vince's site
and order them via his links so he gets the commissions.)
I HAVE decidedly-mixed feelings on this morning's decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the extension of the Sonny Bono
Copyright Act — and my ambivalence is not merely because the thing is named after Sonny Bono. Unlike many of my friends (with whom I've
argued this), I am not a big fan of works lapsing into the public domain. I do not think that writers or their heirs are greedy swine for
wanting to hold onto a property that someone thinks "should" belong to all. I think, in this materialistic world of ours, that a creation is a
commodity and that society has no more right to void ownership rights than they have to say that you can't own those precious family heirlooms that
Grandma left you in her will. I also do not see the greater good that is supposedly achieved by books and movies lapsing into the public
domain. Seems to me most of what we get from that is a lot of really cheap, bad videotapes in K-Mart, and publishing houses that get to print
books without having to pay an author or respect the wishes of one.
I recognize that there are cases where public domain facilitates the preservation of classic work and the creation of new art. I
just think they're the exception, not the rule. The argument has been advanced that public domain "liberates" certain works of art, preventing
copyright owners from sitting on them and keeping them from the world. I'm not sure that's as true as some say. I think public domain
provides a disincentive for copyright owners to invest in preservation and restoration. But if keeping great works available is our primary
concern, there could be a clause in the copyright laws that said works have to be preserved and kept in print for their owners to retain custody.
I also have no great love for companies like Disney continuing to own properties like Mickey Mouse, but fear the "little guy" will get
trampled by the decision that Disney has "earned enough." In my ideal world, after the formal term of the copyright, the rights would revert to
the estates of Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney, and the current company would have to go to them and reacquire the rights.
Where my feelings get mixed on this issue is that I think the Supreme Court, in saying it's okay to tack more decades onto copyrights
that would otherwise have expired, is going against the Constitution. That most imperfect of perfect documents does say something about
copyrights expiring, and Congress has done all that it can to see that this never occurs. On the one hand, I'm glad because I think copyrights
should not expire, and I think that clause in the Constitution — authored at a time when it was beastly difficult to reprint anything at all
— is outdated and in need of changing. No one is talking about changing it, however; they're just doing fancy footwork to not
comply. I like the result but I don't like seeing the Constitution circumvented to arrive at it.
is available at any comic book shop with a lick of sense. This scintillating collection of Evanier's POV columns features amusing
pictures by Sergio Aragonés and bizarre articles about the history of comics and the world of comic book fandom. If your store is
senseless, you can order a copy over at the website for TwoMorrows Publishing or
from Amazon.Com. You'll be glad you
did...or, at the very least, I will be.
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